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March 24, 2012

Carabinieri's TPC (Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage) Recovery of 37 Paintings Stolen from a private residence in Rome in 1971

Press conference photo from Comando Carabinieri Tutela
Patrimonio Culturale in Rome on March 8, 2012 
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

On March 9th Tom Kingston for The Guardian reported "Stolen paintings recovered in Rome 40 years after art heist" which you can read here.  Nick Squires reported from Rome for the Daily Telegraph here.  Noah Charney wrote about the discovery in his column, The Secret History of Art.

Where were the paintings found in Rome? "Italian police find stolen paintings hanging in a house in the same district of Rome from where 42 works disappeared."

The Parioli district is an elegant residential area which also includes the Villa Giulia and the Galleria Borghese.  Thieves had not shipped the paintings out of the country.  Eleven of the paintings were likely on display in a private home for two decades.  How many guests spent the night or ate dinner in this home of stolen paintings, never recognizing the paintings as stolen or maybe not knowing or remembering that another residence had been burglarized in 1971 in the same area? Interpol's Stolen Art Database had a record of these paintings but access to this information is limited.  Public access to Interpol's Stolen Art Database was not made available until 2009.  The public has limited access to the inventory of millions of paintings reported stolen to the Carabinieri.

How did the police find the stolen paintings? The owner, a widow, put four of the paintings up for sale.  In a routine check between for sale items and the stolen art database, Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (TPC, translated to the Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection Operations Department) identified the four paintings as stolen in 1971.

Here's the link to the press release by the carabinieri on the recovery of 37 of 42 paintings dated from the 13th to the 19th century which were stolen from a private residence in Rome.  The TPC's investigation started in the first week of February in coordination with the Public Prosecutor of Rome. The woman tried to sell four of the paintings at auction was arrested for possession of stolen property.

Tomorrow's post will feature the images of the most recovered paintings as provided by the Carabinieri TPC. Would you recognize these artworks as stolen if you saw them hanging on the wall of a friend's house?